Top 5 ‘Credit Crunch-busting’ entry-level DSLR cameras
- Wed, 13 May 2009
Amid recent price hikes and perplexingly expensive new DSLR models hitting the shelves, many of us – be that new to DSLR cameras, looking to upgrade, or otherwise – are looking to alternative, affordable options. It’s a common question, and with such a saturated marketplace it’s all too common to hear cries of “What DSLR should I buy on a budget?”.
Entry-level DSLR cameras offer an affordable yet promising setup that will technically reward you well beyond shooting with a compact and save you heaps of cash in the long run if upgrading from a film camera. Perhaps you’re just new to photography and find the idea of being able to control your picture making exciting. Well now you can, and on a budget; it’s not even integral to have the newest, ‘bestest’ camera on the market... Here’s the What Digital Camera Top 5 ‘Credit Crunch-busting’ entry-level DSLR cameras, May 2009:
1. Nikon D60
Original score: 85% (April 2008)
PRICE (best*): £369 (with 18-55mm VR lens) from PixMania
Replacing the Nikon D40, the D60 is an ideal DSLR for beginners. With instructional screens that make ‘real world’ sense to newbies, the D60 is not only an ‘educational’ DSLR but a great one too. With clever dust-reduction, Nikon’s DX sized sensor (APS-C equiv.), excellent images even at higher ISO sensitivity thanks to Nikon’s EXPEED processing concept and a Vibration Reduction kit lens to boot. However, there are some points to note – the D60 doesn’t have a drive motor in the body, meaning autofocus lenses (Nikon AF-S fit in this case) require inbuilt motor drives, which comes at additional cost should you want to buy an army of lenses. It’s not all bad news though as the AF-S range of lenses are of a high quality and come in an extensive range, offering you a wide range of creative control. Seeing as the D60 pinches high-end technology from considerably more senior D3 and D300 it’s no surprise that in use it’s a right champion of a camera; one that’d do any first time buyer proud.
- Read original full Nikon D60 review
2. Canon EOS 1000D
Original score: 85% (September 2008)
PRICE (best*): £342.59 (with EF-S 18-55mm IS lens) from Argos
It’s taken Canon – often seen as the king of the image world – many years to roll back their prices. And, not unlike the Asda advert, it’s seen them take a firm slap on the behind too, as sales in the lower ranges dropped off against other manufacturers. The 1000D, however, brings an affordable package emblazoned with the Canon badge. It’s much like a stripped down version of its bigger brother – the EOS 450D – with Live View and a decent kit lens with effective Image Stabilisation (IS) to keep those shots sharp. Unlike Nikon’s D60, the 1000D has motor drive in the body, ensuring EF-S lenses needn’t cost the earth and will swiftly autofocus. Image quality is top notch too, though the camera’s finish itself is perhaps a little lower down the list. The full asking price can come in a little steep – shop around though and you’ll find a bargain price for what is a top contender for the entry-level crown.
- Read original full Canon EOS 1000D review
- Read Canon EOS 1000D vs Nikon D60 feature
3. Sony A200 (Alpha DSLR-A200)
Original score: 89% (April 2008)
PRICE (best*): £259.95 (with 18-70mm lens) from John Lewis
Back in 2006 film-based big-gun Konica Minolta withdrew from the camera business, transferring assets to Sony. So, despite Sony’s apparent short time gracing the DSLR world, there’s years of experience adsorbed into the brand – not to mention its experience in compacts and video cameras. Building upon the well-known Minolta lens mount, the Alpha series means those with old Minolta lenses can still utilise their old glass as a bit of a Brucey bonus; a huge temptation to pull newcomers into the brand. The Sony A200 (Alpha DSLR-A200) injects a competitively priced DSLR to the fray too, plus it feels intuitively laid out in the hand and the in-camera autofocus is swift. Image quality is good, but perhaps a few places behind some of the more-established brands – though, considering the excellent price point, it’s not enough to hinder its potential for making excellent pictures. Whilst newer lenses may take some time to gather weight, Sony is always putting significant input into the Alpha range and it’s a certainty that there's plenty more to come.
- Read original full Sony A200 review
Not so long ago the Pentax K200D hit the market, and a few short months after – at the beginning of this year – was replaced with the Pentax K-m. Slimming the price seems to be high on Pentax’s agenda, and the 4xAA battery-powered K-m scores well in the budget test (if you don’t mind buying your own rechargeable AA batteries, but at least you can always have spares!). With a compact body that provides prompt (albeit noisy) autofocus, the K-m produces high quality images with good tone and detail, though it does have a tendancy to underexpose a little. Shoot Raw and whip out the post-production software, however, and you can expect some superb results from this eminently affordable entry-level model.
- Read original full Pentax K-m review
Pioneering the Four Thirds format, Olympus’s E-series of DSLR cameras offer an excellent array of lenses in the smallest of packages; the E-420 being no exception. The Four Thirds format is an open standard that relies on a sensor – smaller than the APS-C sizes found in the other contenders listed – and a lens-fitting that is consistent between cooperating brands.
The Olympus E-420 is little effort to carry due to its very small size, has Live View, dust reduction, and is ultimately excellent value for money and as well as a great route in to the Four Thirds market. Though it’s not all roses, as the handling, relatively slow autofocus system and limitation of 3 AF points, means it’s a basic model – but then it’s not brand new. The E-520, and E-620 have superceded since, but their bump up in prices mean that, realistically, the E-420 is great value for money and a potentially savvy investment for an altogether different offering.
- Read original full Olympus E-420 review
* Best prices are guidelines, accurate for May 13th 2008, based on products in-stock, search for by web, including VAT, excluding delivery (where applicable).